Mil Vukovic-Smart
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MPs debate Access to Stem Cell Transplants

Mil Vukovic-Smart
Posted by
01 Feb 2017

Minister confirms NHS to review policy on second transplants later in the year.

Last week in the House of Commons, Mark Tami MP led a debate on Access to Stem Cell Transplants. The debate follows up on the campaign, led by Anthony Nolan and supported by Bloodwise and many other blood cancer charities, to overturn the recent decision by NHS England to not approve routine commissioning of second stem cell transplants for relapsed blood cancer patients.

Mark Tami MP (pictured), a Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Stem Cell Transplantation whose oldest son received a life-saving stem cell transplant a number of years ago, highlighted key issues facing many blood cancer patients in accessing this treatment: 

About 2,000 people in the UK need such a transplant each year. Two thirds of them will not find a matching donor in their family and will therefore require an unrelated donor.

Sadly, one in eight people does not receive the life-saving transplant they need because there is no donor available or a donor cannot be found quickly enough. The odds drop dramatically for patients from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background.

Despite the fact that stem cell transplants are a well-established treatment, the huge financial pressures on the NHS are causing problems for patients. The situation is most serious for those who need a second ​stem cell transplant. Sometimes, after having a first transplant, a patient’s blood cancer or blood disorder will come back or relapse. That is devastating news in itself. For about 20 patients a year, the clinician will recommend a second stem cell transplant as their best, and often only, chance of life.

Nicola Blackwood MP, Minister for Health and Life Sciences at the Department of Health, responded on behalf of government. She acknowledged that the clinical evidence in this area is ahead of published evidence and confirmed that NHS will review its decision again later this year:  

Prioritisation decisions are kept under review in the light of new evidence and NHS England tells me that proposals for second transplants will be reviewed again later this year. Until the completion of any review, as the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside said, clinicians can continue to apply for funding for second transplants for relapsed disease where NHS England assesses that the patient is clinically exceptional or has a clinically critical need, although I accept what colleagues have said about how difficult that process can be.

Bloodwise will continue to work with NHS England and everyone in blood cancer community to make sure all blood cancer patients have access to treatments they need, including second stem cell transplants. 

A full transcript of the debate is available here: You can also watch the debate again here:

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